After nearly three hours of discussions and presentations, the Blue Springs City Council established the White Oak Community Improvement District on Monday and adopted tax increment financing for the redevelopment project.
The project would raze the White Oak Shopping Plaza, at 1132 SW Luttrell Road near the Missouri 7 and U.S. 40 intersection in Blue Springs, sometime next year to construct a new 85,000-square-foot Consentino's Price Chopper and 19,250 square feet in additional commercial space, plus a 180-unit senior housing complex. The grocery store and commercial space are expected to be completed by 2016, and the senior living complex in 2017. The current Price Chopper on south Missouri 7 in Blue Springs would be relocated to the new building once complete.
According to city documents, the total cost of the project is estimated at $46.6 million and approximately 24 percent of it will be financed through public incentives. The developer, Development Associates, LLC, will have nearly $7 million, or approximately 14 percent of the total project costs, in reimbursement through TIF assistance, plus an annual appropriation of the city's sales tax revenues generated by the project not captured by the TIF. Also, the developer was approved for an additional $1.9 million reimbursement, or another 4 percent of the total project costs, through a 1 percent Community Improvement District sales tax over a 23-year period, which is the same amount of time as the TIF plan. Plus the CID sales tax could possibly end before its 23-year period if the district generates enough revenue.
The TIF plan also requires nearly a $40,000 annual contribution to the Blue Springs School District, as part of the city's TIF policy.
In order to implement this new development project and TIF plan, the city would need to exercise both condemnation and eminent domain on the existing White Oak Shopping Plaza in order to demolish the current site. The issue brought much deliberation to the Council before the vote on this ordinance, considering the three tenants that are currently leasing the shopping center: Beauty Brands, Dollar General and RadioShack.
Beauty Brands Senior Vice President of Construction and Real Estate Mitch Truster told the council that his location in the White Oak Shopping Plaza has 35 full and part-time employees, and is one of the business's most successful stores in the Kansas City area. With the project being approved, the employees could be without a job "in less than 60 days." Plus he said that Beauty Brands has spent "more than a million" in building improvements over the years since it began leasing its current location in 2000.
But both Mayor Carson Ross and Councilwoman Susan Culpepper pointed out that the White Oak Community Improvement District is a matter of balance. Ross said the current south side Blue Springs Price Chopper, 1100 Missouri 7, is hindered from expanding its operations with its current location. This can potentially put the grocery store's 80 employees in jeopardy with other competing grocers in the future, he said. Although he clarified that he was not speaking on behalf of the Consentino family, it would be unfair to not allow the Price Chopper location the opportunity to relocate considering how the city accommodated Hy-Vee’s move to 625 U.S. 40.
Culpepper also said the city is not literally putting White Oak's current tenants "out on the curb," but the developer gave them the option to relocate at the new shopping center.
"Constituents want this problem solved," she told the Council about the blighted White Oak Shopping Plaza.
Ross also asked the Council how many times over the last decade have residents questioned their city representative on what is going to happen to the White Oak Shopping Plaza.
Councilman Ron Fowler asked to hear about the negotiations between the remaining White Oak tenants, RadioShack and Dollar General, as it appeared to be "one-sided." Neither RadioShack or Dollar General had representatives present. However, Development Associates, LLC representative Michael Fishman reported to the Council that RadioShack is currently in talks with the developer to relocate at the new development.
In a split vote with Councilman Fowler, Chris Lievsay and Kent Edmondson voting "no," and Councilwoman Culpepper, Councilmen Dale Carter and Jeff Quibell voting "yes," Mayor Ross broke the tie with a "yes" vote, allowing the city to institute condemnation and eminent domain.
Although the Blue Springs City Charter says a mayor can vote on an ordinance in the event of a tie, the mayor is now required to be the seventh member of the City Council, as Blue Springs voters passed Charter amendments at the Nov. 4 election that requires the mayor to have voting power.
Prior to the White Oak Community Plan proposal, the council held a separate session to approve and accept the Charter amendments passed by voters. Afterward, Mayor Ross signed documents officially bringing the charter amendments into effect.
Truster told the council that he will continue to negotiate with Development Associates, LLC, on alternatives to keep Beauty Brands at the same location.